Dylan Dale came home for a visit recently to tell me about a new direction for his life. I always love seeing my son, doesn't matter what surprise might be in store.
He stood by me when my ship was dragging bottom a few years back, not the first time I bounced off the rocks, so I owe him more than just a hollow welcome home. Good or bad, bring it on.
The kid has packed a lot into his first 21 years and I'd bet he'll cover a lot more ground before he's done. He's got drive and passion. I can only admire that in a person, double for him.
This visit was another notch more interesting than the others. And that's saying something.
Before I begin, though, consider my current position.
No fulltime job. Benefits run out Sept. 1. Driving a 2009 Sportage worth maybe $5,000. I'm not doing bad on the communication gigs but they're feast or famine. Yet I have big dreams of launching a print magazine in the midst of a digital boom. Not exactly a slam dunk. The growth plan is "merit-based" at best and a business expert might be kind to describe the performance goals as "optimistic."
Not exactly a sturdy soapbox to start wagging my finger at anyone. Getting judgy about how my boy is taking on the world would be hypocritical.
All the mistakes I made through life add up to a very humble number.
And beside, the kid is right as rain about enough other things that I have to give him some leeway. I kinda agree with his assessment, actually. Given the exact point and time, and not obsessing on how he got there, it's clear as day he was at a crossroad in life and following his heart was the best choice.
I could quibble about pennies spent poorly, question the avoidable hits and harp about the sharp-edged realities to come. And I did put the "dad hat" on and articulate in a relatively reasonable fashion some obvious learning moments. That's said and done.
Dylan understands it's a big decision. That's exactly why he met face to face with his Laurier University football coaches and resigned from the roster after two full years and part of this summer. I think they respected that at the least, and maybe also his effort and dedication while wearing the purple.
We could talk about the challenges he faced as an athlete at that level. It probably wasn't easy getting a shoulder operation the first year. And being wounded again the second season didn't help either.
We could look at the academic side with a similar amount of glee.
But, as he said and I agree, it was more than those things combined. He had another dream knawing at him from within and his heart was beating in another direction.
I know that feeling. You end up not being yourself, that's why I've followed my spirit (almost) every time it called and will likely continue that pattern. It was just 16 months ago I remembered one of the mantra's I had back in the day: live the next 20 years like it's your last. Why would I expect anything different from my son?
So, there ya go, he learned a lot more than any grades would show while living in Waterloo these past two years.
And now he wants to give mixed martial arts his full attention and there's specific training from specific people he wants to obtain in Montreal, Que.
He's already converted his training regimen to one more suitable for a fighter, as compared to the strength-with-bulk goals football required. He was formidable and mobile but not overly massive for an inside linebacker topping out at 6'2'' and 215-pounds
On his side is well-founded athleticism after growing up playng all positions in hockey and baseball plus trying every sport. His footwork is better than many guys, he's an anaconda on the jiu jitsu mats. Reach will be one of his attributes for sure with a 6'6'' wing span and legs that go forever with fair-size canoes for feet. I could see him able to fight at 185 pounds while walking around at 195.
He's employable, too, with several jobs and good references obtained before he left for university. And now he has his security licence, so there's always work bouncing to help pay the bills. Things won't be easy, although he's already learned anything worth something takes all you got.
I remember the summer I was 21. Just freshly arrived in North Bay and coming off welfare on a cane. Not too many people thought I'd make a go of it. Truth is, I hadn't shown them much reason to believe in me. There were doubts voiced by my own shadow it seemed.
Interestingly, just the other day a buddy shared with me a YouTube link to Dr. Joe Dispenza speaking about how we can program ourselves through either positive thoughts or negative ones, mapping out a looping pattern by embracing one or another outlook. It's complicated while simplistic. Basically, by thinking certain thoughts, we create either stress on our biology that undermines our ability to heal ourselves and make good decisions or create positive chemical reactions, allowing our body and brain to function better. Here's one of the better audio LINKS to hear him yourself.
It explains a lot about my issues, not sure about other people. I always dwelled on the worst possible outcome thinking I'd be better prepared but often it held me back from thinking about how to make the best possible outome materialize. I would imagine horrible things thinking that was a good way to process feelings not realizing I was conditioning myself to think and feel more insecure thoughts as an instinctive reaction.
In hindsight, I quite literally held myself back for most of my life by bracing for disaster instead of planning for success.
So, all I can say at this point is: "Go get them kid. Be the best warrior you can be. Make all your ancestors proud. Wear with pride the Anishinaabe Thunderbird (for the Linklater side) and an Irish Shamrock (for the Dale side). Your opponents will know they're in for a good fight."
Always know I'm in your corner. Come home anytime you need a warm welcome, food and a safe place to prepare for whatever next step you're taking.